JFCS Staff Q&A: New J-Pride Program Coordinator Isaac Ezra Jennings

J-Pride’s mission is to engage Minnesota-based LGBTQ+ Jews and their allies to come together for social events, community gatherings, celebrations, and educational opportunities. New J-Pride Program Coordinator Isaac Ezra Jennings recently spoke about what his goals are for the program. 

Why did the J-Pride Coordinator position appeal to you?

I’ve been in the non-profit sector for several years now, primarily in the child literacy field, and I love any opportunity to use the skillset I’ve developed to the betterment of my community. The J-Pride Coordinator position allows me to work for my community in a less abstract way. Existing as a queer Jew can be awkward and isolating, and I know I’ve certainly been in situations where I was expected to leave either my queer/trans existence or my Jewishness at the door, to engage as only part of my whole self. Programs like J-Pride are necessary because they don’t force that divide, and instead allow people to bring their entire authentic selves into the room. When I learned that I could bring my non-profit experience to a program creating such necessary space, I knew I had to apply.

How has J-Pride adapted to providing programming during the pandemic?

I can’t speak to how the program initially adapted, as I’ve never known a pre-pandemic J-Pride. What I can tell you is that, moving forward, we’re working to provide more options for participating in ways that feel authentic. I think a lot of us are wracked with Zoom fatigue, but still need to make those personal connections. From a practical standpoint, that means continuing to offer virtual opportunities while also seeking ways to exist safely together in person. 

What are your goals for J-Pride, both in the short-term and the long-term?

My immediate goal is to get through the rest of my community partner introduction meetings! There is an incredibly long list of organizations and congregations who have relationships with J-Pride, and I want to make sure that I’m continuing to strengthen these relationships and our position as a community partner.

As far as our participants are concerned, I’m working to provide more opportunities for different kinds of engagement; as much as I love (for example) queer readings of texts, or LGBTQ+ ritual spaces, I’m hearing from a lot of folks that what they’re really needing right now is the option to engage socially in a space where they don’t have to explain themselves. I’m very dedicated to providing that option. I’m also working on providing programming that will appeal to more age groups.

Anything else you would like to add?

Yes! I’m currently seeking feedback from LGTQ+ Jews in the Twin Cities area, of all ages, on what they want or need from the local Jewish community and institutions. If you or someone you know is interested in participating in this conversation, please contact me at ijennings@jfcsmpls.org for more information!